HL Deb 13 February 1980 vol 405 cc179-87

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I will now repeat a Statement being made in another place in answer to a Private Notice Question on Rhodesia. The Statement is as follows:

"The problem of intimidation of voters in the rural areas, the scope of which has now been confirmed to the Governor by the British election supervisors, continues to cause great concern. The Governor has enacted an ordinance enabling him to suspend elections in any area where systematic intimidation makes it impossible for a fair election to be held. He has also listed a number of areas where intimidation is particularly severe. This should warn those of whatever party who seek to deprive others of the right to campaign freely and peacefully of the possible consequences of their actions. The Government will also be taking positive measures to strengthen supervision of the elections by sending a large number of additional personnel from the United Kingdom to be present in polling stations in rural areas, to ensure that the arrangements for voting are scrupulously fair.

As the House will be aware there has been a further deplorable attack upon Mr. Mugabe. Investigations are being pursued. The Governor will continue to take firm measures to deal with intimidation, violence and breaches of the cease-fire from whatever quarter. Despite the serious problems which exist, the Government are determined to carry the election through to a successful conclusion and to ensure that it is conducted as fairly and freely as possible."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.


My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for repeating that important Statement in the House; but is the noble Lord aware that the Statement he has just made confirms the mounting concern in this country and abroad about the deterioration of the situation in Rhodesia? Is he further aware that the action taken under the ordinance which the Governor has enacted, enabling him to suspend elections in any area, may well nullify the result of the election as a whole and give a talking point to the basic enemies of the democratic process to denounce the election and to resume other means of settling the Rhodesia problem? May I suggest strongly that every effort be made to avoid using this particular ordinance?

Moreover, will the Government here and in Rhodesia resist the temptation to ascribe responsibility for incidents to any one particular party? All are guilty of infringements of the decisions taken at Lancaster House, of infringements in spirit and in action, not excepting certain elements which are supporting the present Government. The role of the auxiliaries, for instance, has been raised constantly in this House and should be mentioned again. While we denounce the actions of certain parties, we must also make it as clear as possible that all the agencies of government in Rhodesia are not themselves guilty of certain incidents and also are seen to be impartial in regard to all contending parties in the current elections.

Is the noble Lord aware that we welcome the intention to send:

… a large number of additional personnel from the United Kingdom to be present in polling stations in the rural areas to ensure that fairness is observed? But is he also aware that we believe that, even more necessary than that important decision, is that during the next crucial two to three weeks there should be a strengthening of the forces of law and order in Rhodesia from sources regarded by the Rhodesians as a whole as being impartial?

Finally, my Lords, would the noble Lord give the House some reassuring news about the situation of Mr. Garfield Todd—

Several noble Lords

Hear, hear!


—a former Prime Minister of Rhodesia who commands wide respect among black Africans and not a little among white Africans as well, and whose arrest by the present Government of Rhodesia was more drastic even than the treatment meted out to him by the Smith regime, who, after all, only confined him to his farm?


My Lords, we, too, should like to thank the noble Lord for repeating this important statement. I think that the whole House will probably join with me in expressing great sympathy for the unfortunate Governor, the noble Lord, Lord Soames, who is in the most difficult of all possible situations at the present time. I imagine that the Government will also agree that one of the greatest difficulties is his relative inability to control the actions of one of the most important actors in the drama now unfolding in that unfortunate country; namely, General Walls.

Apart from that, I have two questions that I should like to ask. Will the additional supervisors—who, I imagine, will be civilians—however multiplied, be in a position to prevent terrorist action from intimidating electors? Will their presence diminish such terrorism? Here I think I touch on a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. Would it not be preferable to increase the monitoring force, comprised I believe of soldiers? If they were reinforced would they not have rather more influence on the terrorists than mere civilian supervisors? I only ask that. I do not know what the answer would be.

Finally, do the Government not agree that the recent public utterances of Mr. Smith threatening, as I understand it, another rebellion if by any chance Mr. Mugabe should get a majority, are wholly deplorable? Do they not also feel that the constant condemnation of Mr. Mugabe should get a majority, are wholly have been on the whole moderate, as a Marxist—whatever that may be—is in itself something which is designed to inflame prejudice and might eventually lead to a resumption of the civil war?

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, I am obliged to both noble Lords for what they have said. Taking first the points put by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, of course we agree that it would be highly preferable if the Governor were not obliged to use the powers which he has taken under the second electoral ordinance. May I in parenthesis say that in accordance with normal procedure we will, as soon as we can, put a copy of that in the Library.

The problem is not one of seeking to control one particular party or another. We are seeking to control the intimidation, and that is why we have decided to send these additional personnel to Rhodesia, as I described in the Statement. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, asked us to remember that the breaches of the cease-fire were committed by all the parties—or at least a good many of them—and were not just on one side. I have some figures before me: of the 129 breaches of the cease-fire on which the cease-fire Commission have so far reached a conclusion, no fewer than 87 have been committed by ZANLA forces or forces operating in the ZANLA area of operations. The cease-fire Commission reaches its conclusions with the agreement of the ZANLA member on the Commission, so I think I can say quite firmly that there is no doubt whatever that the proportions that we have described in terms of ceasefire breaches are accurate and accepted by all sides.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested that it was unhelpful to go on, for example, calling Mr. Mugabe a Marxist. Be that as it may, the fact is that Mr. Mugabe calls himself a Marxist—and, indeed, why not? He is entitled to his views and we respect them. As for the civilian observers, to which I referred just now, they are going, as I have said, to discourage would-be intimidators from their dreadful task at the polling stations in rural areas. They will be very well placed to do that.

We do not think that any useful purpose would be served at this stage by increasing the size of the monitoring force. The monitoring force is there to monitor, and they are doing that entirely successfully and satisfactorily. We would only need to increase the size of the monitoring force if we were to give them some new and additional role. We have no plans to do that.

I am sorry that I omitted to answer the question put to me about Mr. Todd. He called on the Rhodesian Attorney-General yesterday and made a statement which brought to light some circumstances which he had not previously disclosed. The Attorney-General is considering, in the light of this statement whether or not a prosecution should succeed. I understand that Mr. Todd is seeing the Governor later today.

Lord HOME of the HIRSEL

My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend could help the House with some facts. Is it a fact that there are some 6,000 of Mr. Mugabe's supporters outside the assembly areas and still with arms? If that or something like that number is a fact, is it not a direct contravention of the agreement signed in London? While the Governor will undoubtedly not want to use his powers, is it not extremely dangerous to allow a situation of that kind to continue which might wreck the whole prospect of a settlement?


My Lords, it is certainly essential that every party to the elections in Rhodesia should observe the provisions of the Lancaster House agreement. I can confirm what my noble friend said about the numbers who are outside the assembly areas and who are still carrying arms.


My Lords, would the Minister be good enough to say whether in a deteriorating situation he is satisfied about the security of the monitoring force? If there occurs what is suggested might occur, the Governor would be put in a very difficult position indeed.

My second question is this. Is not this situation which has arisen entirely foreseeable if the Government send out a Governor with responsibility—ultimately complete responsibility—without adequate powers? If they turn their backs on a concept—if I may use the phrase—of that of a jeep and four men in the jeep, and they had the jeep with only three men in it, is not what has happened only to be expected? What worries me is how far the Government have gone drifting on as a result of political bait, and what is bait here is the lives and security of the monitoring force.


My Lords, the members of the security force will not be allowed to get into such a situation where they cannot adequately defend themselves.


My Lords, was not the Lancaster House agreement one in which the security forces were to return to barracks while the guerrillas went to assembly areas? Does not a great deal of the trouble result from the fact that the security forces were not made to go to barracks? On the contrary, auxiliaries are allowed to roam. Mr. Garfield Todd said in a radio broadcast (it was the day be was arrested) that one of the reasons why he was arrested was because he was pointing out that the only way one can get guerrillas to come to the assembly areas is also to make the auxiliary forces go to barracks.


My Lords, all the forces that were in Rhodesia at the time of the signature of the Lancaster House agreement were required to place themselves under the instructions of the Governor, and that applied equally to the auxiliaries. Likewise, the auxiliaries are part of the Rhodesian forces and equally are to observe the cease-fire. They are fully monitored. Any complaints against their activities are investigated and action is taken where necessary. Disciplinary action or action in the courts will result from proven misconduct, and this has already happened in some cases.


My Lords, with respect, the Minister has not answered my question. The question I am asking is this. Is not the basic cause of all the trouble the failure to observe the Lancaster House agreement under which the security forces would return to barracks while the guerrillas went to assembly points?


No, my Lords. I do not think the noble Lord is right on that. Of course, the security forces did initially return to barracks and, indeed, many of them are still in their barracks. But some of them are used by the Governor for his purposes.


My Lords, recalling what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said about the utterly deplorable speech by Mr. Smith a few days ago, was that speech not utterly contradictory to the spirit of the Lancaster House agreement and ought it not to have called for utter condemnation by the Governor? Should we not have a declaration, either by the Governor or by the noble Lord today, that whatever Mr. Smith thinks about the outcome of the election and what he would do in those circumstances, the British Government will stand by the results of the election?


Yes, indeed, my Lords. We have always said that our whole purpose and our whole policy in this matter is towards creating conditions in which a free and fair election can be held; and we certainly hope that everyone will abide by the results of that election. But I think that one should hesitate before condemning electoral rhetoric too firmly. The sort of things said by Mr. Smith are indeed regrettable, but a lot of equally bad things have been said by the other side.


My Lords, can my noble friend inform me whether it is true, as I have heard, that Mr. Mugabe was quoted as saying that if he did not win the election he would continue the war?


Yes, my Lords. I, too, have seen reports like that. I think that it just confirms what I said earlier.


My Lords, with respect, and with the permission of the House, may I emphasise one or two points? Will the Minister and Her Majesty's Government, both here and in Rhodesia—they are both Her Majesty's Governments—bear in mind the important distinction between strengthening the civilian technicians who will supervise the actual polling and the electoral arrangements, as they would, presumably, in a by-election in this country, and the need to strengthen what is sometimes called the monitoring force, but which I have chosen to call the forces applying law and order, from sources seen by everybody in Rhodesia to be impartial? I leave it at that.

The second point that I want to emphasise is this. The whole House sympathises deeply with the Governor, the noble Lord, Lord Soames, in the immensity of the task confronting him and accords him considerable admiration for his courage and determination to surmount them. Anything which is said here calling attention to certain aspects of the situation, which as my noble friend Lord Wigg said is certainly deteriorating, is meant to help him as much as possible. In particular, am I right in believing that Mr. Garfield Todd, a man of considerable stature in Rhodesia and in Africa, was, in fact, arrested and treated like a common criminal by a local magistrate and that the Governor intervened to see that more appropriate action was taken in regard to this matter?


My Lords, Mr. Todd was alleged to have committed an offence and was subjected to the proper legal processes. I hope that the noble Lord will not press me to go further on Mr. Todd than I have done already. But as I said earlier, the Attorney-General is considering, in the light of what Mr. Todd has recently said, whether or not the prosecution should proceed.